Hope Academy for Autism pushes Warren for busing
Claims city schools ignore students’ needs
WARREN — The leaders of a Youngstown-based community school with about 25 students who live within the Warren school district are asking Warren City Schools to provide transportation for those students.
Kimberly Clinkscale, founder and director of Hope Academy for Autism, is accusing Warren schools of ignoring the transportation needs of primarily low- income, special needs students attending the community school.
Clinkscale said her small community school is primarily populated with students with special needs, including those on varying levels of the autism spectrum. Clinkscale said that even before the opening of the school year, her staff had been trying to resolve the transportation issue.
Warren offered to provide parents of the students $250 per child to address their transportation needs, which, according to Ohio Department of Education officials, is the minimum amount the district can provide in lieu of providing transportation.
Parents of the students have argued that $250 for a school year to transport their students between their homes in Warren and the Hope Academy for Autism, 610 N. Lakeview Ave, Youngstown, twice per day, is not enough.
Clinkscale said that even before the school year began last September, they had worked to persuade Warren schools to provide transportation for these students, but they say they have repeatedly been stonewalled.
Hope Academy for Autism opened in Warren in 2013. A second school opened in Youngstown in 2017. The Warren school roof collapsed in September. Students attending the Warren school were transferred to the Youngstown campus.
The school currently has 51 students, with 30 students coming from the Warren City School District area.
“We are a community school,” Clinkscale said. “We have parents of students who do not have the means and cannot afford to provide transportation for their students to our school.”
“Warren is the only school district not providing transportation for their students,” Clinkscale said. “We are not having this type of problems with other districts.”
Youngstown and Girard city schools are providing busing for students that live within their district areas.
Clinkscale said Hope Academy for Autism has been having problems getting Warren to provide transportation for its students at least since 2016.
“I’ve tried talking to them, and I’ve made my complaints to the Ohio Department of Education,” Clinkscale said. “The only thing we are asking is for Warren schools to provide the services they are required to do by state law.”
In December, Warren City Schools sent letters to parents of students who transferred from Warren to Hope Academy for Autism stating it would not provide transportation to the Youngstown school. The district, however, would provide the parents $250 per student for the academic year in lieu of providing the transportation.
Warren schools Superintendent Steve Chiaro said the transportation issues of students between public and nonpublic institutions are between the students’ parents and public schools, not the non-public institution.
“Earlier this year, when Hope Academy approached Warren City Schools demanding transportation they were advised, on multiple occasions, the process is initiated by the parent,” Chiaro said. “Hope Academy operators refused to follow the appropriate process.”
Chiaro said the administration of Hope Academy delayed the process of evaluating transporting the students by these actions.
State law provides exceptions for districts that argue it would be impractical for them to provide transportation to students, including excessive costs; time and distance; whether the services disrupts current transportation schedules as well as the number of students being transported, according to an Ohio Department Education spokesman.
Parents or guardians have an opportunity to accept payments in lieu of transportation. Payment can be no less than $250 per year and not more than the amount determined by the Department of Education as the average cost of pupil transportation for the previous school year.
Carla Baran of Warren has two children attending Hope Academy in Youngstown because she feels Warren City Schools has not been servicing their needs.
“One of my children has ADHD, and all Warren schools was doing was suspending him,” Baran said. “Warren schools wanted to give him medication and not deal with him. He needs his education, and medicating children is not always the best choice.”
Baran has three other children attending Warren schools.
“I have been taking my children, or Hope school has been providing transportation,” Baran said. “It is expensive. I never received a letter from Warren schools about them providing $250 per student for transportation.”
Nikole Hake has two of her four children attending Hope Academy in Youngstown. They have been Hope Academy students for four years.
“I thought Hope Academy would be a good school because of its autism programs,” Hake said. “They were not succeeding in the Warren and in Howland schools.”
Hake, a single mother who is recovering from a heart attack, said she does not have the ability to get her children back and forth to Youngstown on her own.
The children were attending Hope Academy’s Warren school, but transferred to the Youngstown campus last school year.
“Hope Academy has a bus, but it is not enough,” she said. “I spoke to Warren’s director of transportation about providing transportation, but was told they could not do it.”
Providing $250 for two round trips to Youngstown every day during an entire school year is not enough, Hake said.